Twins, Sisters, Friends: Reading and Düsseldorf

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Twins, Sisters, Friends: Reading and Düsseldorf

Whenever I meet people from abroad and tell then that I work in Düsseldorf their reaction is somewhat the same. You can tell, they have no real image of the city in their mind. Truth be told, that is no real surprise.

Düsseldorf has a reputation for being an old industrial city with steel works (which it isn’t anymore), it is known to be the desk of the “Ruhr area”, which is still somewhat true, it is said to be an extremely posh fashion city which is not wrong, and it is famous for several big trade fairs and a vivid night life in the old town and media harbour – which is a facet of a bigger picture.

In reality Düsseldorf is all that and much more.

The city lies at the river Rhine, one of Europe’s biggest waterways, about 40 kilometres downstream from its old rival Cologne – which is more than 1000 years older and much bigger.

Still Düsseldorf is the capital of the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, by population the biggest of the 16 German states. This is thanks to the English occupation authorities that governed the area after the second world war. They chose Dusseldorf because they knew the history of the area better than most Germans, and they were picking up from a time in the 17th century when the city was once the capital of the Duchy of Cleves.

The steels works were closed in the 70s and 80s. Today, Düsseldorf has a population of 642,000 people. More than 153,000 people living in the city do not have a German passport and come from far more than a hundred different nations.

Düsseldorf is very international. It is home to one of the largest populations of Japanese people in Europe. Düsseldorf hosts many important trade fairs like the Medica or the Tube and Wire. In the old town there are more than 250 restaurants, bars and discotheques in an area of one square kilometre. In the same area there are still five small breweries that brew the local dark ale called Altbier – a relative of an English bitter.

Tourists are amazed to see that locals drink it at standing tables outside of the brewery throughout the year. It does not matter if it rains or snows or the sun is glaring, there is always a good reason to stand in front of a brewery, have a chat and drink an Altbier. This is where the city feels like the village that is part of its name. “Dorf” means village in German. And many locals claim that the city is at the end of the day only a slightly bigger village.

The city has been growing strongly over the last two decades and is economically a very dynamic place. Apart from still being the desk of the Ruhr area – which is less impressive than it used to be – Düsseldorf today is Germany’s foreign trade centre. A large proportion of all goods imported into the country or exported from the country legally passes through the city.

Despite all this Düsseldorf is very green, has many parks and people love to stroll the river banks or sit in small cafes and watch passing strangers. Its famous Königsallee in the city centre is home to shops for all the big fashion brands of the world. Düsseldorf’s art museums are amongst the finest in the country. There are plenty good restaurants and bars.

For me personally it is this thrilling mixture of local and international, small and big, city and nature that makes working here a wonderful experience.


Stefan Daubner


Busekist Winter & Partner